Shaul Yakobi, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, shows the single-piston car engine he invented. Yakobi, a graduate of Israel's Technion Institute, says the engine could revolutionize the auto industry. Shaul Yakobi, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, shows the single-piston car engine he invented. Yakobi, a graduate of Israel's Technion Institute, says the engine could revolutionize the auto industry. Shaul Yakobi, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, shows the single-piston car engine he invented. Yakobi, a graduate of Israel's Technion Institute, says the engine could revolutionize the auto industry. (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

How a new super-efficient engine could redefine the auto industry

The push toward electric vehicles is promising, but it's also expensive. This company says it has a low-cost alternative.

There's no denying the appeal and potential of the electric car movement. The thought of never having to fuel up, lowering our carbon footprint, a sleeker, quieter driving experience ... it's all very promising, and for some people, it's already reality. After all, Tesla sold more than 21,000 of its electric Model S cars in 2015 alone.

But there's one nagging fact that even the most brilliant minds of the auto industry haven't been able to reconcile: Electric cars are expensive. Sticker shock is a consistent turn-off for a large number of people, even when you factor in the savings on rebates, maintenance and gas.

It's that quandary that inspired a group of Israeli entrepreneurs to go back to the industry's humble roots – the internal combustion engine – and create a super-efficient, lighter, less-expensive version.

Gal Fridman, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, holds up his company's single-piston car engine during a road test in Francorchamps, Belgium, on Oct. 19, 2016.  (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)Gal Fridman, co-founder of Aquarius Engines, holds up his company's single-piston car engine during a road test in Francorchamps, Belgium, on Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo: Emmanuel Dunanda/AFP/Getty Images)

"It is the highest efficiency you will probably meet," Gal Fridman, CMO and co-founder of Aquarius Engines, said of his Tel Aviv-based startup's updated engine model. "It has the lowest emissions and the highest power-to-weight ratio."

It does this, he said, by using a single piston that goes side to side, instead of a traditional engine that has multiple pistons thrusting up and down. That construction reduces weight and energy expenditure, allowing for better fuel efficiency.

The company says its engine enables cars to travel almost 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel, more than double the average distance of a traditional engine. And since Aquarius is trying to market the engines to car manufacturers, Fridman said the cost will be much lower than traditional engines.

At least one car maker has taken notice. PSA, the Paris-based parent company of Peugeot, Citroen and DS vehicles, confirmed that it's in talks with Aquarius to conduct road tests and discuss funding, but "nothing has been decided yet."

"If the concept works in reality it's going to have a lot of potential," Pavan Potluri, a powertrain analyst with industry consulting firm IHS Automotive, told Reuters.

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How a new super-efficient engine could redefine the auto industry
The push toward electric vehicles is promising, but it's also cost-prohibitive for many people. An Israeli entrepreneur says he has a low-cost alternative.